A new image, exciting new products and an impressive new website – make way for the new Disley

Disley or NM Williams… Which one is it? The name of this quality workwear brand from Belfast has been a source of some confusion for customers in the past, which is why the company spent the last year quietly working behind the scenes towards a major relaunch at the annual Printwear & Promotion Live! 2017 show.

“Some people know us as NM Williams, but don’t know why we’re called NM Williams, and lots of people know us as Disley, and the products are marketed as a mixture of both – it was completely confusing,” says sales and marketing manager Lucy Woodward.

She points out that the product range, brochure, logo and website were all due an update too, and so they were also added to the ‘to do’ list. “You might as well do everything at once,” Lucy laughs, recounting the many weeks of effort by the entire team that have gone into creating a cohesive, fresh new look and personality for the brand.

NM Williams was set up in 1951 by husband and wife team Norman and Mavis Williams. At their factory in Belfast they manufactured a range of items, from tablewear to lingerie; fittingly, however, given that Norman was a lawyer, it was legal robes that heralded their first step into the workwear market. One of the brand names from that time, Disley, has survived the years, and the workwear side has flourished to such an extent that nearly 70 years later, the company exclusively manufactures corporate and hospitality garments.

The new Disley logo

Amazing heritage

“We have this amazing heritage but people don’t know about it,” says Lucy. “You try to be neutral as a trade supplier so that your product can appeal to as many industries and end users as possible, but at the same time, people like to know about the personality and background of a brand, just as they like to know where their food comes from. Our heritage is something to be proud of; that’s why we’re telling people about it.”

The new logo, for example, is a modern twist on a lion that Lucy spotted on an old Disley plaque in the office that declares: Established Shirtmakers, Day and Dress Shirts, Made in Britain (Disley now, like many companies, manufactures exclusively in Asia). The new lion offers a nod to the company’s roots while demonstrating its modern approach and clean style. “It gives a sense of the product quality and customer service that we’re known for, but haven’t been shouting about,” she says. “Until now, our branding wasn’t standing out enough – you need to draw people in and show the company’s strengths.”

The biggest step in the rebrand has been to sort out the company name: the registered company name will continue to be NM Williams, but from now on it will trade as Disley. “Disley will be the mother brand,” explains Lucy. The products have also been separated into three distinct ranges: Edition, Heritage and Williams.

Edition garments are all new and feature contemporary fabrics and slightly more detailed styling. They’re also, says Lucy, where decorators will be able to see the colour story come through, with the colours running across all the products so as to give people more choice as to how to put it all together.

Fresh, modern styles point the way forward for Disley in 2017

Behind the scenes at the shoot for Disley’s all new 2017 catalogue

The Heritage line comprises mainly existing products, with any inconsistencies ironed out: “Where things used to be only available in long sleeve, we’ve now added a short sleeve; there is a new ladies’ blouse in there and you’ve got a man’s white shirt available in every different configuration: classic cut-away collar, button-down collar, slim fit, non-iron – you name it, we’ve got it.”

The Williams range is the brand’s essential garments range, and has had a black colourway added thanks to its popularity in the hospitality market.

Another major change is the introduction of product names. While there are a few customers who will always be able to quote the codes for every item they order, product names are more memorable and less likely to lead to mistakes, Lucy advises. “Our poor customers have had to remember a different code for every colourway and every sleeve length of every product we make,” she comments. “When you’ve got 60 suppliers to remember, every one with a different system, it’s too confusing.” There will be names only from now on, but for those who have the codes etched on their memories, there’s a handy code convertor in the back of the brochure for the established products to allow everyone to find things easily no matter which system they prefer.

New garments for 2017 include five blouses for women, two shirts for men, and a range of ties and scarves, (along with the new colourways and ‘tidying’ up of established styles with the introduction of long or short sleeved styles where needed). A new stretch fabric has been used in the Tramore shirt and Orla blouse, and a polyester fabric has been used for some of the blouses that “drapes beautifully,” according to Lucy.

Particularly eye-catching are the round-necked blouses. “As soon as you start talking about casual workwear people think you’re going to suggest going straight from a shirt to a polo or a T-shirt, but it doesn’t need to be like that. Garments like the round-necked blouses bridge this gap – they make your member of staff feel proud to wear them and want to wear them, while still making them look professional.”

The new prints are another big story for 2017, and have been carefully designed with decorators in mind. “The prints are all two-coloured – white plus one colour: navy and white, charcoal/white, cobalt/white, and aubergine/white,” explains Lucy. “First of all, this makes the design very fresh and modern. Secondly, if you put a third colour into a print then it’s more likely to conflict with somebody’s branding, whereas by keeping it simple with two colours, it’s less likely to take attention away from a logo.”

Capturing the brand’s personality

A year’s worth of work has gone into the Disley relaunch

A business stripe with a broken element to it has also been introduced, for a look that is not too masculine for women and not too feminine for men, says Lucy.

The coordinating ties and scarves along with the prints and plain-coloured garments allow maximum choice when kitting out a workforce. “There are a lot of different configurations possible with something that appeals to everyone. Wearers want an element of choice in what they wear to work, but the company has to represent a cohesive image while clothing people from age 16 to 65 in different shapes and sizes. With Disley’s range, you can easily put a printed blouse next to a plain blouse, along with a white shirt and a tie or scarf – it gives you a choice of clothes to appeal to everybody yet is still clearly a uniform.”

Tying it all together

The all-new brochure ties this all together. Clean, easy to use and with a retail look, it aims for simplicity. Only two models are used throughout: “To me that is almost restful on the eye; we really wanted people to focus on the shirts and the blouses, and this makes it easier for customers to pick out the styles they like.” Male and female coordinating garments are now placed next to each other so end users can see how they can put together a matching uniform, and decorators to sell the products to their customers with a minimum of effort.

A new brochure will now be issued every two years, tying in with the average workwear cycle. “Uniform can fit into a number of different areas, procurement, operations, HR… There are many people that have an input in it. So to change it every year is too quick, while every three years results in people getting tired of what they are wearing, and so every two years is the typical time for companies to look at their workwear,” Lucy explains.

The refreshed website reflects the new branding and will contain downloadable material for decorators to use, including images of every style and colourway. “It’s all about giving our customers the information and support they need to go and sell to their customers,” Lucy explains.

Disley has achieved a huge amount in just a year; however, the company won’t be slowing down any time soon. The tailoring range of skirts, trousers and jackets is next on the list, explains Lucy cheerfully. Like the lion in its new logo, Disley is primed and ready to pounce on every detail in its quest to be the best.